Sunday, November 25, 2007

The adorable Sampras

Going to two tennis matches of world's first and second never crossed my mind. It happened last week, with two exhibition matches between Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Richard Gasquet (8) and Roger Federer (1) vs. Pete Sampras (former number 1).

Everything was business as usual, i.e. both Federer and Nadal defeated their opponents. But Sampras stood up among the other players as the most entertaining and spectator-friendly. You go, Pete!

Roger and Pete

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dear penis

The older a man is, the further the relationship with his penis...? *LOL*

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Making friends with Air Asia

I had my first experience with Air Asia, finally, last weekend. Equipped with all sort of information about flying with Air Asia - good and bad, there I was, checking in at the Low-Cost-Carrier Terminal (LCCT).

(This blog shares (bad) experience flying with Air Asia.)

Interestingly, I went through several scenes that, like it or not, provided the occasions to interact with other passengers.

While I knew that the baggage limit is lower than other airlines (both for checked-in as well as carry-on baggage), I didn't know that some people with overweight baggage would approach passengers with lightweight baggage for 'help'. Two students in front of me were ones of the victims - they ended up carrying one of their bags as a lady insisted their help.

I, too, was approached. Not sure what my position at that time, I asked questions like show me your boarding pass, what do you do, etc., before finally let him 'use' my excess capacity.

Well, not knowing this person and what is in his luggage, I felt it was necessary to stay close to him.

Only to find out that he works in a multi-marketing company.


Luckily, he was not the sales person or the marketer, but rather in the setting up the business structure. Phew...

The other occasion was the boarding process, which was worse than I expected. A total chaos. No line to queue, which is even worse than queuing in Genting. And I hate having my body constantly touched or pushed.

And then the race to the airplane. This is where passengers with children are handicapped.

Finally, the seating process. People can get pretty rude in this process - I saw someone who practically indicated something like "I don't want you to sit next to me, look somewhere else." Rude and unacceptable.

Everyone tries to maximize his position. Hoping to sit next to an empty seat.

This is the same challenge, actually, across all airlines that don't assign seat numbers. The difference is the passengers (that people want to avoid sitting next to). In the U.S., for example, there are more oversize passengers. In Asia, or my experience flying between Malaysia and Indonesia, there are more passengers with strong body odor. Yeah, smell bad.

A friend of mine who frequently travels with Southwest Airlines, one pioneer of low-budget airlines, has a tip on this. When you travel alone and light, and the flight seems to be full, board in the last one-third of the passengers. That way you can pick and choose who you want to sit next to.

As a favor to your neighbor-to-be, make sure you take a shower before going to the airport.

Yes, everyone. Please.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I question the effectiveness of busway

Having had the chance to observe Jakarta's famous busway, as well as discussed it with some friends, I doubt that busway is, and will be, effective.

There are several premises and assumptions in this thinking (or perhaps others have done similar approach as well). One is that the goal of having a busway system is to reduce traffic congestion on the streets where the system is implemented.

Here traffic congestion is defined as the number of cars per unit length of street with busway. If this number gets smaller with busway implemented, then it's effective. And vice versa.

There's no hidden agenda, politically or economically, in the opinion below, which concludes that installing busway lanes, indeed, increases traffic congestion.

The framework of determining the effectiveness is very much simplified, that is by looking at whether replacing a vehicle lane with a busway lane will actually reduce the overall traffic (on the other vehicle lanes).

Without considering the cost, I'm looking at the balance of demand (number of people to ride busway) and supply capacity (number of people that the busway system can transport) - on a unit of length.

Let's say a vehicle, running at a decent speed on a traffic lane, will consume an average space of 12.5 meters (4.5 meters length + 8 meters distance between front-end and back-end of two cars). That makes 80 vehicles per lane per kilometer.

If we assume 1.25 passengers per vehicle (that is 5 people for every 4 cars), that'll make 100 people transported per lane per kilometer.

The question is whether taking off one lane for busway will positively affect (reduce congestion on) other lanes. In other words, whether at least these 100 people in 80 cars will use busway.

Another assumption here is that there's no costs of switching (whether financially or based on comfort). These passengers will switch to busway (if available) once they feel there are more than 80 cars per lane per kilometer, and so on to keep the system in balance.

To complete the demand side of this equation, it is also assumed that in each bus available, 25% of the passengers are actually coming from those who do not drive. These are the people who has the buying power to switch from other means of mass transportation to busway. These people are assumed to be more experienced in using mass transportation, thus will always get in to the busway ahead of the people who are used to drive or use vehicles. In other words, these people are in higher priority.

Let's also say the average speed of a busway is 30 km/h, of which each bus will take 2 minutes to travel for 1 km. If we assume the time between two buses is 1 minute, there will be two buses at any given time in a kilometer of busway lane.

Another important parameter is maximum capacity of a bus. A friend who's a regular busway rider informed me that a normal capacity is 40 passengers, and 60 passengers in an extremely full situation ("kalau dipaksain"). Let's assume an average of 50 passengers per bus.

This will give us a capacity to transport 100 passengers (50 passengers times 2 buses) every one kilometer per one busway lane.

Since 25% of these 100 passengers, or 25 people, come from other mass transportation, only 75 people truly move from driving a car to riding a busway. These 75 people equal to 60 cars (with 1.25 people per car).

A little summary from the above rough estimate:
- number of cars "displaced" when busway lane is installed: 80 cars/km/lane
- number of "cars" that will switch to riding a bus: 60 cars/km/lane

This means, once a busway lane is installed, the other lanes will be more congested by 20 cars for every kilometer. The more lanes available, the less added congestion will occur. But it will always be more congested. E.g. if there is only one other lane, it will be more congested by 20 cars for every kilometer. If there are 20 other lanes, each lane will be more congested by 1 car for every kilometer.

Therefore, busway is not effective in reducing traffic congestion.

Imagine on Jalan Sudirman, which is about 4km long, the two express lanes (jalur cepat) will have an additional of at least 160 cars - displaced from the new installed busway lane.

With this same logic (and only with this logic), several ways to decrease traffic congestion with busway are:
- Increase the capacity of busway - either by using bigger buses (more than 50 passengers per bus) or by having more frequently buses (less than one minute between buses).
- Prioritize passengers who "give up" driving. (How?)
- Add another vehicle lane for every busway lane installed. (Then we may not need busway.)
- Create busway lanes (or other mass rapid transportations) that do not utilize regular vehicle lanes. Subway? LRT? Hmm...

I'm sure there are lots of loopholes in this exercise, mostly through the simplified assumptions (I may need to do some sensitivity analysis?). But the conclusion probably won't be too far...

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bridge blogging and English for Indonesians

Four blogs that I regularly read shared their views about bridge blogging last week, a topic started by Unspun's "More Indonesians needed for bridge blogging".

Then Miund expanded on her "On Bridge-Blogging". About how (some) Indonesians perceive English blogs as ‘hard to read’ or ‘pretentious’.

And that perception is really a problem.

I once was asked by an Indonesian colleague: "Is it our ability to speak in English that limit our opportunities to pursue career overseas?"

He was referring to the small number of Indonesians currently holding a regional position - relative to that from other neighboring countries.

"No," I said. "It's more on our networking abilities."

I partially lied.

I believe it is, directly or indirectly, the ability to speak in English. Networking will bring in the opportunities, while the English part will help land the job. Both help go up the corporate ladder.

Directly, through communication skills. Ability to clearly communicate ideas, provide directions, and so on. Broken English will do to a certain level. At the end, the higher the position, the more frequent upward presentations one needs to do. And that's where things get a bit tricky.

Indirectly, through self-confidence. I tend to think that people perform better, verbal-communication-wise, when they're talking to non-native English speakers, or people whose English they perceived to be at most on par with theirs. It's a bit difficult when the counterpart speaks more fluently, or is a native English speaker. I don't know - it works somewhat that way with me.

Drawing from the same logic, if I don't speak as well as I do now, there would be relatively more people with better English, and the more often do I have not-as-great self-confidence while speaking. This is perhaps what's happening to some fellow Indonesians.

This perception can put self-roadblocks to learning and practicing English (or other languages for that matter). And it's kind of a downward spiral if other people keep improving their English while we don't even want to start.

Part of the roadblock could be the fear of something new, or of making mistakes.

But hell, who cares? We can always improve if we really want to. We are always in a learning process anyway.

Wouldn't it be nice if majority of Indonesians can understand some basic, essential English words? Perhaps at least numbers and some basic trading words to allow them to do transactions with English-speaking tourists?

Or the ability to put compelling business arguments and analysis? Or at the least, to give a better first impression. Because the chances are that we do have strong technical skills and work ethics.

All it takes to start is the shift of that perception or mindset, lots of practice, and the willingness to take feedback openly and positively. (and a supportive environment too.)

As for bridge-blogging? It's a medium. A place to make mistakes and to improve.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Is flashlight a toy?

A typical scene at home.

*#^$%#$(*& !!!!

"Whoa, whoa. What's happening?"
Anya: "Ben doesn't let me borrow his flashlight!"
"Why, Ben?"
Ben: "Because it's not a toy..."
Anya: "It IS a toy!"
Ben: "It's not!"
Anya: "It IS!"
Ben: "NO!"

"Stop it, stop it."
"Why do you think it's not a toy?"

Ben: "Because... because we use flashlight when it's dark!"
Anya: "No..."
"Wait. Let him finish."
Ben: "So we have to keep it."
"And why do you think it's a toy?"
Anya: "Because it's a Buzz Lightyear flashlight! Buzz Lightyear is a toy!"
Ben: "But it's a flashlight! You said we shouldn't play with flashlight!"

(Oh, now it's me)

"OK. Let's not play with my flashlight, because we need to know exactly where we keep it. When it's dark, it'll be very difficult to find a flashlight if it can be anywhere, won't it?"
"But since this is a toy flashlight, you can play with it."

Both: "Yipiiii...!"
Anya: "Give me."
Ben: "My turn first!"
Anya: "But you've played with it already!"
Ben: "This is my toy. My turn first!"

... I think I found the reason why men play golf the whole day...

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Terokai and menerokai

Me (sms): dude, what are the meanings of 'terokai' and 'menerokai'?

(15 minutes later)
Dude: explore & exploring.

Me: but X said they're develop and development. (I also sms-ed X.)

Dude: just because X is a Malay doesn't mean he can translate well. Develop and development are kembang and perkembangan.

Me: oh... so terokai is not 'the most OK' and menerokai is not 'making it the most OK'?

Dude (call): what are you doing??!!

Yes, I'm still working on some Bahasa Malaysia words. Being an Indonesian, of course, helps, but there are words that I just have no idea what the meanings are.

Some words are similar to Indonesian words, but with different meanings. Like "bisa" (can, venom) or "jemput" (pick-up, invite).

Other words are "English-based". Like "kolej" (college), "imigresen" (immigration), or "kek" (cake).

So I guess I have a good basis to guess "terokai" as ter-okai -- ter-OK -- 'the most OK'...

There are some more (from Macvaysia): amaun (amount), akaun (account), bajet (budget), bas (bus), bank, beg (bag), buli (bully), cek (cheque), diskaun (discount), draf (as in bank draft), edisi (edition), fail (file), fesyen (fashion), hospital, hotel, imigresen (immigration), kad (card), komuter (commuter), komputer, kompaun (compound, in the sense of a fine or levy), kredit, motosikal (motorcycle), motivasi (motivation), pakej (package), preskripsi (prescription), projek (project), rekreasi (recreation), resit (receipt), sains (science), seks (sex), seksyen (section), sesi (session, as in a university year), skim (scheme), sup (soup), tayar (tire), treler (trailer), tren (train), universiti, wad (ward, as in hospital ward)

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